Proctor : March 2019
55 PROCTOR | March 2019 If the shoe doesn’t fit... At least it’s too late to wash the car As I type this, the new school year is about to start and we are in the midst of the ‘back-to-school’ frenzy. Whether or not that is a good thing depends on which of my children you ask. My daughter looks forward to the start of the new school year as if she is about to be beamed aboard the Starship Enterprise (original series, not the dorky dross that followed) and be allowed to fly it to the planet of the talking puppies. My son views it more the same way the dinosaurs would have viewed the approach of the asteroid which wiped them all out by slamming into the Earth (65 million years ago last Tuesday, to be exact), had they not had brains the size of a walnut. Indeed it is astonishing to think that millions of years ago the world was very different, ruled by the dinosaurs, the most powerful of which was the T-Rex. Can you imagine being ruled by a dinosaur with a brain the size of a walnut and freakishly small hands? I bet Americans can. However, I digress and return to the subject at hand (Ha! See what I did there?) which is the back-to-school frenzy. Thankfully, much of this frenzy is now automated. When I was a kid, we would simply pop down to the newsagency (which in those days sold something other than Lotto tickets) and bought a couple of plain exercise books, an ‘Oxford Rule’ book (the purpose of which was never revealed in all my years of schooling) and some 2B pencils – total cost about a dollar – and we were done. All that was left was to pester mum to throw in a Spider-Man comic. The only thing similar today is that kids still pester their parents about Spider-Man. Now, we simply order a pre-packaged box of books, pencils, glue, compasses, sextants, barometers and God knows what else, all of which are apparently made of a rare mineral which can only be found on the far side of the Moon, at least going by the price. Actually that was just for my son’s stuff. For my daughter, we were required to visit Kmart and buy one or more of, effectively, every piece of stationery they had or could have flown in on short notice. This made my daughter ecstatic, because she loves Kmart the way Donald Trump loves walls and learning about Russian culture. Veteran parents tell me to make the most of this, as she will soon love fashion boutiques which tend to charge the GDP of Tasmania for simply speaking to a staff member. Funnily enough, I had thought that all of this was over, as we had spent the two weeks over Christmas, and the equivalent of Clive Mensink’s allowance, on school supplies, which included shoes. That is important because one Sunday late in January I was informed by my wife that we needed to get school shoes for my daughter. Naturally, I pointed out that we already had bought school shoes for her, and that it was Sunday, a day of devotion (specifically, devotion to putting off washing the car until it is too late to do so). My wife and my daughter responded by looking at me as if I had just suggested that she didn’t need an iPad because she had a perfectly good pocket calculator. It seems we needed PE shoes, and despite her having several sets of joggers (including a set that has wheels in them, which would be very useful on sports day in my view) none of them would do. Which is how I ended up a certain sports store – let’s call it ‘Conformist Sports’ to preserve its privacy – witnessing a confirmation of the Budden Uncertainly Principle. You may have heard of this principle, but since I just made it up that seems unlikely; it is based on the famous Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, thought up by – now here’s a shock – a guy named Heisenberg, probably after a few too many sherbets. As you are no doubt aware, the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle states that you can’t know where a particle is if you know how fast it is going (think of it as similar to the way the later you are, the harder it is to find your keys). The Budden Uncertainty Principle states that if you are just browsing in a store, every staff member will approach you at least three times offering to sell you something; but if you actually want to purchase something, even if you are standing there with a wheelbarrow full of money and Elvis Presley, staff will not speak to you, approach you or even acknowledge your existence. We stood there trying to attract the attention of two staff members who were not serving the customers but were engaged in a deeply important discussion which I couldn’t quite hear, but based on the looks of them I deduced that it was about Dungeons & Dragons or computers (or playing Dungeons & Dragons on computers). Thankfully, my son took charge and began dancing in front of a mirror singing one of the most annoying songs I have ever heard, which he discovered on an Xbox game and is basically a highly inaccurate take on the noise foxes make. If you have ever heard that song, you will appreciate that, attention-getting wise, it was more effective than setting fire to the shoe display (which by that time was plan B). We really should have experienced success on this trip. My daughter is the most organised shopper in history, and so she was well-prepared. She knew the make and model of shoe, the size and she had confirmed that the store we were in actually had the shoe in stock. Unfortunately, she was about to formulate her first law of physics, the Budden Conjecture: no amount of planning and preparation can survive contact with an intellectually unremarkable shop assistant. After we gave him the information he strode purposefully into the storeroom, looking like a man that knew exactly where the shoes were, which was exactly what he was: a man who only looked like he knew where the shoes were. What he actually was, was a man who needed some guidance on what shoes are. After the passing of approximately an ice age, he returned to confirm that the system did say they had the shoes, but that he, alas, could not find them. He had found a different shoe in the wrong size, and seemed genuinely perplexed as to why this was not an acceptable solution to our problem. So we never got the shoes, meaning that there are more visits to shops for school supplies in my future. On the plus side, by the time we got home it was far too late to wash the car. Suburban cowboy by Shane Budden © Shane Budden 2019. Shane Budden is a Queensland Law Society ethics solicitor.